From Pinnacle Entertainment Group, creators of the Savage Worlds RPG. For those who don’t know… Solomon Kane, the Puritan witch-hunter, is another pulp hero created by Robert E Howard, best known for his stories of Conan the Barbarian. Kane travels the world seeking out evil and giving it a sound thrashing.
In a Nutshell: The world of R E Howard’s Solomon Kane as a Savage Worlds RPG. What’s not to like?
Solomon Kane (21 pages)
Unusually long for an introduction, this section opens with a piece of fiction in Howard’s style, setting the scene for how the player characters come to follow the Path of Kane. Next come an essay on what drives Kane himself; and summaries of the stories (and fragments of stories) Howard wrote about him.
Characters (36 pages)
This opens with a list of archetypical characters, and then explains character creation, Savage Worlds style. In essence, characters have attributes and skills, both rated as die types (e.g. "I have Strength d8"), and edges which grant them bonuses of various types – GURPS players would know these as Advantages, D&D players as Feats. This is a point-buy system, so all of those cost points; you have an allowance of points initially, and can get more by taking hindrances, which apply penalties to your character under specific circumstances.
This is the standard Savage Worlds approach, but with a couple of new hindrances (I like Cocky, which means the character must spend his first action in combat bragging) and a selection of edges (including Really Dirty Fighter, allowing you +2 on tricks and the ability to spend a benny to get The Drop on your foe) which tailor the system to this setting.
Arms and Equipment (12 pages)
As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to glaze over at the equipment section of RPGs, but here it is, with details of the armour, weapons, coinage, and adventuring gear of the 16th-17th centuries, the timeframe of Kane’s adventures.
Game Rules (32 pages)
These are the standard Savage Worlds rules. The only difference I could see on this reading was a wider range of tricks. I’ve reviewed SW before, so I won’t go into that here, other than to note that this game is self-contained and doesn’t require the SW rulebook. Whether you think that’s good (yay, it’s all in one place) or bad (I already paid for those pages!) is up to you.
Magic & Devilry (18 pages)
Again, this is largely standard SW fare. The two available arcane backgrounds are Shaman and Sorceror; priests of civilised cultures eschew magic, it seems. Spellcasting is different in the world of Kane; there are no power points, but to avoid horrendous minuses on casting rolls, the magician must prepare his spell for some time – so he can cast more often, but it takes longer. There are no direct offensive spells – the magician must be subtle. Spells last longer, but cannot be maintained. There is a new Spell Backlash Table, and a number of new spells – I especially like Animate Hand and Elemental Manipulation, and these and a few of the others may find their way into my vanilla SW games. The section finishes with a handy spell summary, which is most welcome and I hope becomes a feature of the next version of the basic rules.
Anything up to this point is for players and Game Master both; beyond this point, for the GM only.
The Art of Storytelling (13 pages)
This is your basic "how to be a GM" section. It looks a lot like the one in the SW Explorer’s Edition rulebook.
Creating Adventures (16 pages)
This is the usual “how to create an adventure” section. It follows the usual current advice to plot individual adventures out like a movie, stressing exotic locations. It also reminds the GM that Savage Worlds has no truck with the Sorting Algorithm of Evil – you meet what you meet, and it won’t always be a fair fight.
Here, too, is advice on how to create NPCs, whether major villains or not. As usual in SW games, the GM is advised not to design NPCs in detail, simply give them whatever attributes feel right for the character and don’t worry about whether they are balanced or not.
Next there is an adventure generator – a series of tables which can be used to determine the villain, his goal, the hook for bringing the PCs into the action, locations, villainous henchmen, and plot twists. There is an example adventure showing how to use this to create a scenario.
Finally, as is standard for SW settings, there is a Plot Point campaign called the Path of Kane. Without giving too much away, suffice to say that Kane and his friend N’Longa have uncovered an evil so great they cannot face it alone, and so N’Longa summons like-minded souls (the PCs) to assist them. The campaign is well thought out, and will take the PCs across the entire world in search of their goals. The chapters describing each continent (see below) each have a number of set-piece adventures, and the GM fills in between these with randomly-created scenarios to taste. These are framed by an initial adventure gathering the PCs together, and a couple of final ones wherein the ultimate evil is faced.
Savage World of Solomon Kane (6 pages)
This section is a useful briefing for players and GM alike, explaining the technology and beliefs of the 17th century.
The Old World (34 pages)
The first of the continent-describing chapters, this one focuses on Europe. It provides a brief overview of political geography, religion, travel and its dangers, notable people and events; then it heads into specific locations and set-piece adventures. Some of these are set in locations that will be familiar to Kane fans, and these are described both before and after Kane visits them – this approach is repeated for such locations in later chapters.
The Dark Continent (54 pages)
It’s fitting this should be the largest continent chapter, as Kane himself spent more time in Africa than anywhere else. This section covers getting there, geography, local empires, and adventures.
The New World (32 pages)
Kane did visit the New World, but this is mentioned only in passing in Howard’s stories, so the GM and campaign have more latitude here. Again, the chapter explains how to get there, local geography, the old empires (now largely conquered or destroyed), and a group of adventure scenarios.
Cathay and the Orient (24 pages)
The last of the continental sections covers the east: Hindoostan, Cathay and Nippon. It explains how to get there, describes the major countries one finds and their societies and religions, notable people, and then drives on into the local adventures.
Horrid Beasts of Solomon Kane (38 pages)
As with NPCs, the GM is encouraged to create them quickly, without worrying too much about balancing encounters or points values. The bestiary chapter begins with a list of monstrous abilities and their effects – stock SW stuff, although I thought I saw a couple of new abilities there – before heading into individual monster descriptions; the natural (animals, easily transported to any other SW game, and natural hazards), the unnatural (largely beasts from the Kane stories, or similar sorts of creatures), people (stock NPC archetypes), and famous people (memorable characters from the stories).
The book also includes a world map, a character sheet, and at the back, a repeat of the summary tables and some area effect templates.
The grim, dark setting will seem familiar to Warhammer players and fans of Hammer horror flims, both of which draw inspiration from Howard and like authors.
I would love to run this, or to play in a Kane campaign. This is one of the better Savage Worlds settings. For the moment, it goes on the shelf, awaiting a slot in my schedule. Some day, its turn will come.